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School social media policies

The DMN has an interesting look at how Dallas-area school districts handle social networking by its employees.

[S]chool districts and teachers trying to reach and engage students and parents find that using the latest and most popular technology is faster, cost-effective and meets students and parents in their communication comfort zones.

Some teachers have established their own blogs and Facebook pages for their classes.

“It’s a wonderful way to reach out and get immediate feedback,” said Bob Morrison, superintendent in Mansfield ISD. “If you have your students subscribing to a classroom Facebook page and they’re having a debate about a topic, the teacher can see that and use it in her class.”

Large districts, such as Dallas ISD and Fort Worth ISD, have established districtwide Facebook pages. Some have created Twitter accounts, blogs and YouTube videos to spread district news. Mansfield ISD is working to create a smartphone application that would allow parents to check their children’s athletic schedules or add money to their lunch accounts.

“Technology is here. You can either embrace it or run away from it. We chose to embrace it,” Morrison said.


The Mansfield ISD employee handbook warns teachers that electronic communication should be limited to “matters within the scope of the employee’s professional responsibilities.” For classroom teachers, that means “matters relating to class work, homework, and tests” and for employees directing extracurricular activities, a similar stick-to-the-subject directive.

The policy also prohibits employees from “knowingly communicating with students through a personal social network page.” Employees may have their own social media pages for personal use, but they are to communicate with students through separate professional social network pages only and must allow administrators and parents access.

That’s a sensible attitude, and a sensible approach. Obviously, it’s more relevant today in districts where home computer use is more prevalent, but again we know that Texas schools will be using technology a lot more in the near future, so it’s best to get your arms around this now.

The article notes that the Texas Education Agency prefers to let individual ISDs set their own policies on this rather than impose a standard from above. So I wondered: What are HISD’s policies regarding social media for its schools and employees? I didn’t find anything on the HISD website, so I sent an email inquiry to them. Here’s the response I got:

Access to social media and networking sites (like YouTube and Facebook) are blocked from district computers at all schools and offices. We do not have a district Facebook or YouTube page. But, HISD does have a twitter account and following. The messages are posted by our communications department or by the superintendent himself. We do not have a policy addressing social media sites someone may access and post on during their off duty hours. We do address the issue to some extent in the Code of Student Conduct through our policies regarding cyber-bullying. There is also a state law that makes it a crime to access a computer from someone else’s account and post matters under their name with the intent to make others believe that the account holder is posting it. Additionally, the district can take action for matters posted by an employee, if it has a direct and substantial impact on their performance of their duties, or if it appears that there is a relationship that goes beyond the professional relationship between teacher and student. Employees are not restricted regarding their ability to have an account on a social networking site, however, as the article demonstrates, there are a lot of pitfalls should matters posted on the site extend beyond professional matters and stray into personal matters.

I actually found several HISD-related Twitter feeds, including HISD Media, HISD Recruiter, HISD Special Ed, and the main HISD feed itself. Superintendent Terry Grier is on Twitter, as are at least four trustees: Greg Myers, Paula Harris, Harvin Moore, and Anna Eastman. I have to say, I rather like the Mansfield approach, and I hope HISD will give this some more thought.

From the “Will they never learn?” files

Back when I was having my Trib-based conversation with David Benzion, he mentioned a web ad that was released by the Texas GOP to attack Bill White in anticipation of his jump to the Governor’s race. That ad featured a song by The Platters. Apparently, the state GOP hasn’t gotten the message that using an artist’s copyrighted song for unauthorized political purposes isn’t such a good idea. But they’re about to find out.

Now, attorneys for the Platters founding member Herb Reed are considering their options. “Herb would never agree to let his music be used in a political way,” said Reed’s manager, Fred Balboni.

The Internet ad, titled “Bill White: Too Liberal for Texas,” went live on the Republican Party of Texas’ YouTube account on Dec. 2. When asked whether his party had received the required permission from the copyright holders of the performance and the original composition, RPT Communications Director Bryan Preston said no licenses were required because the ad was “covered under fair use and political parody.” Legal precedent, however, suggests he’s wrong, especially in light of a recent high-profile defeat for Republicans.

In 2008, Jackson Browne sued Sen. John McCain, the Republican National Committee, and the Ohio Republican Party for copyright violation and falsely implied endorsement after they used his 1977 track “Running on Empty” without his permission in an anti-Obama attack ad. The U.S. District Court in California threw out McCain’s motion to dismiss using a public interest defense, forcing the Republicans to settle out of court in July 2009. As part of the agreement, they pledged “in future election campaigns to respect and uphold the rights of artists and to obtain permissions and/or licenses for copyrighted works where appropriate.” Browne’s attorney Larry Iser said, “The law is very clear that the parody must be a parody of the song itself.” Since the latest ad is attacking White and not the Platters, he called the Texas GOP’s claim that the ad is protected free speech “nonsense.”

This really isn’t a difficult concept to grasp. There are plenty of examples of campaigns, mostly Republican ones, getting in trouble for doing this. I guess some people need to learn the hard way.

Where to find the candidates on YouTube

I’ve mentioned candidate videos on here a few times, and it occurs to me that I ought to just do a search through YouTube to see what’s out there for the people running in this election. So here you have it, your guide to candidates’ YouTube channels and other assorted videos.


Annise Parker
Gene Locke
Peter Brown
Roy Morales

All four major Mayoral candidates have their own YouTube channels. Yes, I’m including Roy in that – write down the date and time, kids, it may be awhile before I call him that again – and yes, I looked for the other three candidates, too.


Pam Holm
MJ Khan
Ronald Green

Two of the Controller candidates have their own YouTube channels, which is fitting as they each have their own TV ads. The other is Ronald Green. sigh Green does have a campaign video on YouTube, linked above, which appears on platnumpat’s channel. This same channel also features two vids for At Large #2 candidate Rozzy Shorter; I suspect that this user is also the producer of all these spots, but I don’t know that for sure.

    AT LARGE #1

Karen Derr
Lonnie Allsbrooks
Stephen Costello
Progressive Coalition – Don Cook

All four above are channels. I could not find anything for any of the other candidates. Kudos to the Progressive Coalition for putting together a series of vids for its candidates. That’s the way to do it.

    AT LARGE #2

Rozzy Shorter
Rozzy Shorter
Griff Griffin

No channels, but I did find these three videos for these two candidates. All I can say is that I’m surprised there were no Subway sandwiches to be seen in Griff’s video.

    AT LARGE #4

Noel Freeman
Progressive Coalition – Deb Shafto
Brad Bradford

Freeman has a channel. Shafto can be seen on the Progressive Coalition channel. I couldn’t quite figure out how to link directly to her videos versus Don Cook’s, but if you search YouTube for either of them, the link you’ll get highlights the vids of interest. Bradford has a different video embedded on his campaign website, but if you click the link to view it on YouTube, it’ll tell you it’s been removed. The video above was done in conjunction with one for District G candidate Dexter Handy.

    AT LARGE #5

Jolanda Jones
Carlos Obando
Jack Christie at a candidate forum
Carlos Obando
Carlos Obando at the same candidate forum

Jones and Obando have channels, the others do not. The two vids taken at the candidate forum come from the channel of bigjollypolitics, who has some other examples from this campaign season as well.


Lane Lewis – District A
Brenda Stardig – District A
Alfred Molison – District C
Mills Worsham – District G
Dexter Handy – District G
Oliver Pennington – District G

Lewis has his own channel, which makes him the only district Council candidate I could find with one. Stardig and Pennington’s spots come from the HAR TV channel, which did a real nice job supporting its slate by doing these with four of their candidates (Freeman and Costello, in addition to Pennington and Stardig). I’ve noted before that some endorsing organizations don’t exactly do a good job of making it easy to find out who they are supporting. Far as I’m concerned, HAR put itself at the head of the class by doing this. All you other groups, take notice.

So there you have it. I still may have missed a few, as there are some fairly common names among the candidates, which means there may have been a result or two buried in there that I overlooked. I can tell you that searching for “griff griffin houston” gives a lot of results related to Kathy Griffin’s recent performance here, and that there’s a renowned singer of some type by the name of Stephen Costello, so who knows what else may be out there. Send ’em my way if you know of any campaign videos I missed.

UPDATE: Fixed link to the Bradford video.

UPDATE: Added link to Carlos Obando’s channel.

City of Houston social media

The City of Houston is doing it in the Facebook with the Twittering, plus some bonus YouTube action as well. Follow BARC, various Community Affairs offices, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and more, some of which update more often and have done so more recently than others. I think this is a good idea, and would like to see more city departments do it, as well as a greater commitment to regular updates from those that are currently doing it. Oh, and I think the page should include a listing of City Council members’ Twitter pages as well. Thanks to Miya for the tip.

City candidates on Twitter

Since I brought up the subject of Houston city candidates on Twitter last week, I figured I’d put together as complete a list of such candidates’ Twitter feeds as I could, since I’d already gotten such a head start on it. Before I present that list, I just want to add as a public service to current and future candidates, please configure your account with your full name, so that when someone does a Find People search, they will get a good result. Several candidates whom I follow on Twitter could not be found by this method, which strikes me as a pretty basic oversight. Just FYI.

Now then. Here’s the list, as best as I can determine. If you know of someone I’m missing, please tell me in the comments. Thanks.

Houston Mayoral candidates

Annise Parker
Gene Locke
Peter Brown
Roy Morales
TJ Huntley

Houston City Controller candidates

Pam Holm
MJ Khan
Ronald Green

Houston City Council Members and Candidates

Karen Derr – At Large #1

Roslyn Shorter – At Large #2

Jeff Downing – District A
Alex Wathen – District A
Amy Peck – District A
Lane Lewis – District A
Brenda Stardig – District A

Jarvis Johnson – District B

Mike Sullivan – District E

Peter Acquaro – District F
Robert Kane – District F

George Foulard – District G
Mills Worsham – District G

Ed Gonzalez – District H

That’s a pretty good list, though with fewer incumbents than I would have expected. For the sake of completeness, I also searched for HISD and HCCS trustees. The only one I found was Greg Meyers, HISD trustee for District VI. I’d like to see that change.

So there you have it. Again, if I missed someone you know of, please tell me about it in the comments. If you want more, David Ortez put together a nice list of Houston candidates’ web presences, including Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube. Hair Balls also has a good post on social media strategy briefing that the Annise Parker campaign had on Wednesday. Check ’em out.

UPDATE: Via comments and Facebook messages, I’ve added Twitter feeds for Brenda Stardig (District A), Council Member Mike Sullivan (E), and Robert Kane (F). Thanks for the feedback, please keep ’em coming.

UPDATE: TJ Huntley’s Twitter page is now accessible again.